Saturday, September 23, 2023

Colonial Williamsburg asked for $200K annual funding increase from city

Colonial Williamsburg’s latest admission revenue information shows admissions took a dip from 2016 to 2017, the first decrease since 2014. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
Of the requested $2 million in city funding from area organizations, $1.5 million was requested by Colonial Williamsburg — a $200,000 increase from city funding in previous budget years. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

As budget season ramps up for fiscal year 2020, area organizations are making funding requests to local governments.

During the regular monthly City Council work session Monday, several outside organizations — including Colonial Williamsburg — made their budget requests totaling more than $2 million.

Of the requested $2 million, $1.5 million was requested by Colonial Williamsburg — a $200,000 increase from city funding in previous budget years.

City Manager Andrew Trivette said city budgets in previous years have given $1.3 million to Colonial Williamsburg annually to boost its marketing budget.

The other requests are split between two other groups: $434,150 for city Human Services’ partner agencies and $75,000 for the Williamsburg Area Arts Commission.

The Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance made a presentation Monday as well, although it no longer needs to request funding from the city because its funding is generated by tax revenue is controlled by state statutes under Senate Bill 942.

City spokeswoman Lee Ann Hartmann said the city is estimated to provide about $800,000 — on top of the other $2 million requested Monday — to the chamber and tourism alliance for the next fiscal year under SB 942.

Hartmann did not yet have an estimate for the amount of funding the city’s draft budget will allocate to Colonial Williamsburg.

Shift in approach

A presentation given by Colonial Williamsburg Monday shows a shift in the foundation’s approach to attracting visitors.

Andrea Sardone, executive director of brand and marketing for Colonial Williamsburg, gave the presentation detailing 2018 visitation, economic impact and visitation study results.

Sardone said Colonial Williamsburg is working to emphasize the “human connector” aspect of visitation, which aims to reconnect guests with their family, past and American story by making “history come alive.”

“We want to bring several generations of families,” Sardone said.

Sardone said Colonial Williamsburg hired a survey company last year to gain insight about visitation to the Historic Area.

In Colonial Williamsburg’s strongest market — the area from New York down to Georgia — there are about 19 million people who would “strongly consider” visiting the Historic Triangle for a vacation, Sardone said.

More funding

The request for an additional $200,000 in marketing funding comes just months after the nonprofit released its Internal Revenue Service form 990 for 2017, the most recent tax document available detailing the foundation’s financial health.

RELATED STORY: Colonial Williamsburg president saw $100K bonus for second year in a row, recent tax documents show

The form 990 shows Colonial Williamsburg saw a nearly $900,000 drop in admissions revenue, dropping from $19.25 million in 2016 to $18.4 million in 2017.

Colonial Williamsburg spokeswoman Anna Cordle Harry said actual ticketed admissions rose during that time, despite the decrease in revenue. There were 584,472 admissions in 2016 to 594,378 in 2017.

“The change in revenue can be attributed to the expansion of the Foundation’s Honoring Service to America and military discount programs, which provide complimentary and discounted admission to military families, veterans and retirees — as well as a shift from multiday to single-day ticket purchases,” Cordle Harry wrote in an email.

The form 990 also showed Colonial Williamsburg President and CEO Mitchell Reiss received a $100,000 bonus for the second year in a row.

RELATED STORY: Colonial Williamsburg considers fencing off Historic Area to raise revenue

Colonial Williamsburg’s economic impact

Jeff Duncan, vice president of real estate, outlined the foundation’s economic impact to the area during the meeting Monday.

Duncan said the estimated 2018 economic impact of Colonial Williamsburg was about $443 million, including direct and indirect impacts such as sales in the area and Colonial Williamsburg itself.

About $272 million of that total impact was in the Greater Williamsburg area, Duncan said.

Colonial Williamsburg’s visitation also generated about $3.9 million in rooms, meals and the city portion of state sales taxes.

Colonial Williamsburg also paid $2.2 million in real estate and property taxes to the city.

Sardone said Colonial Williamsburg contributes to the local community by spending $200,000 annually on Grand Illumination and Fourth of July events, as well as offering subsidized annual passes and partnering with local organizations to support residents and employees.

“Colonial Williamsburg, we do support the local community,” Sardone said. “We do believe in giving back as one of the area’s largest employers.”

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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